‘Be realistic’: Dutton’s big call on Musk saga

Peter Dutton has appeared to back Elon Musk’s X. Picture: NCA NewsWire / John Appleyard

Australia must be “realistic” about content people in other countries can view on social media, Peter Dutton says, as a bitter fight to remove the violent footage of the Sydney church stabbing wages on.

The Opposition Leader fuelled suggestions of an internal rift within his party on Thursday after he labelled the eSafety commissioner’s demand that video of the incident be removed as “silly” while his deputy backed the call “100 per cent”.

An injunction ordering Elon Musk’s X to hide the posts was extended until May 10 despite the Sydney bishop who was stabbed in the alleged terror attack supporting the content remaining online.

When asked if he had sided with X in the legal dispute, Mr Dutton said it was not possible to prevent the content being viewed outside of Australia.

Peter Dutton says Australia can’t dictate what people in other countries see online. Picture: NCA NewsWire / John Appleyard

“I know you’ve been a bit controversial siding with Elon on this one,” Today show host Sarah Abo put to him.

“Well, it’s not the case, Sarah. My view is that the laws are there,” Mr Dutton fired back.

He reminded her that it was his government that gave the eSafety commissioner the power to order platforms to take down extreme content.

But Australia needed to “be realistic”, as it “can’t police the whole internet across the world, but we can influence what happens in Australian society”, Mr Dutton said.

“I’d love to say that it could be taken down so that no kid across the world could watch it, (and) we strongly support the commissioner’s position in relation to taking it down so that Australians can’t view it,” Mr Dutton said.

“But we can’t pretend that Australia can dictate to other countries around the world what people see within their countries. As we wouldn’t tolerate that here, that Russia could dictate what content is seen in Australia.”

Elon Musk’s X is fighting the court ordered injunction. Picture: Alain Jocard / AFP
Elon Musk’s X is fighting the court ordered injunction. Picture: Alain Jocard / AFP

Over on Sunrise, Mr Dutton’s deputy Sussan Ley changed her tune and backed her leader’s comments.

“We all support the eSafety commissioner keeping Australians safe online. We recognise we can’t be the internet police for the whole world,” Ms Ley said.

Commissioner Julie Inman-Grant ordered X and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, to remove footage of the stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel at the Assyrian Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley last week.

Musk’s X objected, vowing to fight the order, claiming restricting the visibility of the footage – or geoblocking – to people in Australia was sufficient.

In a statement overnight, X said it “believes it has complied with the notice issued by eSafety, and with Australian law, by restricting all the posts at issue in Australia.”

That’s despite a video of the incident, posted as a reply to the Global Government Affairs statement, available to watch in Australia as of Friday morning.

The government has previously conceded the take-downs could only be issued to known URLs.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten, who appeared on the panel alongside Mr Dutton, said “Musk is not trying”.

“He’s not a free speech warrior for the world, I think he’s conflating issues about trying an allegation of trying to control the internet globally,” Mr Shorten said.

“If he was, he’d allow Twitter to be able to put up with the movements of his jet, which he doesn’t.

“Elon Musk thinks he can tell Australia what to do. And we’re saying, ‘No, you don’t, Elon’. You may run your company, but you don’t run Australia and our laws.”